23rd December 2015
We live in a world of constant facts, opinions and contradictions about nutrition and diet and sometimes it can be difficult to decipher what is reliable information as opposed to the “latest craze”. Here are a few common myths and misconceptions I’m going to attempt to debunk.
“Breakfast is the most important meal of the day”
Yup! You better believe it, this isn’t just an old wives tale. So here’s the (basic) science behind it: While you are asleep your body slows down, including your metabolism (energy burning) so when you wake up in the morning your metabolism is still in “off” mode. Eating breakfast (yes, “breaking the fast” as some health professionals LOVE to reiterate) turns that switch on. Have you ever noticed that if you don’t have breakfast you can last almost until lunch time without eating? That’s because you haven’t flicked that “on” switch yet. Having breakfast kick starts your metabolism for the day and can actually be effective for weight loss. I know that sounds insane, that by eating MORE you can aid weight reduction. Think of it this way: lets say Sally wakes up at 6am every morning and goes to bed at 10pm every night. If Sally doesn’t eat until midday, she only has 10 hours of “burning time” available to her. Only 10 hours where her “engine” is running to burn the fuel she is putting into her body. If Sally eats breakfast at 6:30am that then gives her 15 and a half hours of burning time! If you’re one of these “eating in the morning makes me feel sick” or “I’ll just have a coffee for breakfast” types, it will help if you can force yourself to eat something small like a piece of fruit or one piece of toast in the morning to get that metabolism going. Also, the danger of having coffee instead of breakfast is that it is a hunger suppressant and has almost no nutritional benefit to you. Breakfast is a great opportunity to get 1 of your 2 serves of fruit for the day, or both!
“I only eat twice a day, why aren’t I losing weight?”
This one has been heard a million times “I don’t even eat that much, I only eat lunch and dinner” or even worse “I only eat dinner”. So why doesn’t less food = losing weight. This is similar to the reason why breakfast is important: Your engine isn’t running!! Eating behaviours like this can be extremely harmful and can actually have the opposite effect. Here’s the physiology: When you only eat once or twice a day your body can go into a “starvation mode” which means that your body more readily stores energy (fat). WHY YOU DO THIS BODY??!?! Well think about it; if Sally hasn’t eaten all day and it’s now 1pm and she’s finally having something to eat, and then Sally doesn’t have dinner until 7pm, her body doesn’t know WHEN it will next have fuel. The body comes to rely very heavily on those rare meals during the day, so when it FINALLY gets fuel, it will try to store as much of that fuel as possible because it will be SO long until it gets it’s next “top up”. This is why it is important to eat regularly and in small portions. This keeps your motor running, metabolism burning and no starvation effect!
This brings me conveniently to portion size and meal timings; Think about what you demand of your body on a daily basis. You wake up and you have a WHOLE day of work ahead of you. You eat your dinner and then you go to bed. So then WHY, for most of us, is dinner the largest meal of the day? Surely it would make more sense to make breakfast the largest meal of the day to fuel yourself for the day ahead. That is in a perfect world. Realistically we’re all rushing out the door on our way to work, uni, gym, wherever we’re going! So how do we achieve this equilibrium in our portion sizes throughout the day? Work on reducing the portion size of your evening meal. Think about making dinner more similar to the size of what you would have for lunch, try using the smaller plates rather than the massive dinner plates. Think about if you REALLY need half a plate of potato bake on your plate before you go to bed? What’s going to happen to all those carbs? (They’re probably making a quick dash to your hips!) It’s not rocket science, it just requires a bit of self-control and a bit of common sense to balance your meals.
“Protein shakes will make me look like a body builder”
Nope. Chances are if you’re reading this you’re a woman. Unless you’re on some serious steroids and lifting HEAVY weights 4+ times a week: No, taking protein shakes will NOT make you big and beefy. Protein shakes are designed to help repair the muscles you have torn during your training. Why are you sore the next day after 2 hours on the pole? Because you’ve created micro-tears in your muscles, and now you need to repair those tears to get stronger. In this case protein shakes can be very beneficial, my go-to solution for sore muscles: Take a protein shake before bed. Sleep is used to repair and restore the body, so give it the building blocks it needs to make those repairs at the right time!
What protein shakes should NOT be used for: meal replacement or supplementation for ACTUAL FOOD. Don’t think that taking a protein shake means that you can stop eating meat or your normal form of protein. Tofu, legumes, eggs and meat all have essential components in them that you can’t get from a protein shake. Iron for example; us ladies typically need as much iron as we can get our hands on. They also help provide us with essential fats (yup, we need some of them too!). So the “I had a protein shake for breakfast” girl is doing herself no favours unless it’s a homemade protein shake that is full of berries, yogurt and oats.
Remember that NOTHING can substitute GOOD FOOD.
Hopefully this will help you in the future to make good nutritional choices and know if what you’re hearing on the TV is fact or myth!
BSc(Exercise and Health Science), ESSAM